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U.S. Agrees To Role In Zaire Relief Force

mccurry

WASHINGTON (CNN, Nov. 13) -- The United States will participate in "a limited fashion" in a multinational force aimed at easing the humanitarian crisis in eastern Zaire, the White House announced Wednesday.

Some 1,000 U.S. ground troops are to deployed to Zaire and several thousand others are to be sent to the region to supply support activities, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said.

But McCurry said President Bill Clinton has several conditions he wants met before committing troops to the central African nation. "In principle, [Clinton] agrees U.S. participation is vital," McCurry said.(480K WAV sound)

zaire map

Fighting in eastern Zaire between Tutsi-dominated rebels and Zairian troops has displaced more than one million Rwandan and Burundian refugees and left them cut off from international assistance.

McCurry said the goal of the multinational task force is two-fold: to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid by civilian relief organizations and repatriation of refugees by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

American soldiers are to be under U.S. command, although the operation will be run by Canada, McCurry said.

National Security Adviser Tony Lake met with a high-ranking Canadian delegation Tuesday. McCurry said the parties agreed on a series of conditions for U.S. support, including:

  • The mission would last about four months. At that time, the U.S. would examine whether more time or troops were needed to keep the situation from worsening again.
  • The international force will have "very robust rules of engagement."
  • The U.S. mission will not include disarming militants or forcing entry in Zaire.
  • The cost of the mission would be borne by participating states.

U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher was scheduled to meet his French counterpart Herve de Charette for a working dinner Wednesday evening. Diplomatic sources said a U.S. decision on the role of the two countries within the international force would depend in part on the talks.

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